I have recently retired from the Community Development Office in the City of Oswego and have volunteered with the Oswego Tree Stewards since its beginnings in 2009 when the group committed itself to making Oswego a Tree City USA. Since that time the Oswego Tree Stewards have diligently tackled tree pruning, planting hundreds of trees, and providing general tree care for the community. Every year we celebrate Arbor Day and have come to enjoy a good core group of dedicated volunteers.
For the first two years we began pruning trees in the City parks and since then have methodically been addressing street trees on a weekly basis for the past four years. In 2014 the City of Oswego completed its second tree inventory (Davey Tree Experts had completed Oswego’s first tree inventory in the 1930s), so it was fun to compare the old and new snapshots of the makeup of Oswego’s urban forest.
This year I thoroughly enjoyed the 23rd Annual Re Leaf Conference. One high point for me was the in-depth tour of the American Chestnut Research and Restoration Project that was eloquently presented by SUNY ESF Professors William Powell and Chuck Maynard and their research associates, Linda, Allison, and Tyler. Their passion for this project is contagious. I hope that many will join them in planting many thousands of “mother” chestnuts to multiply the blight resistance throughout the eastern seaboard.
I attended the Opportunities and Solutions for Green Infrastructure workshop on Friday, which was full of remarkable stories of how Onondaga County bucked the system of “gray infrastructure” after the residents protested building more wastewater plants and the newly elected Joanne Mahoney sought another solution to the runoff into Onondaga Lake. Now after many years of the “Save the Rain” campaign and a variety of partnerships with groups like Onondaga Earth Corps, Onondaga County has become a model for green infrastructure for a healthier environment. The presentation on the Gowanus Canal by Christine Petro was also a great “turnaround” story, demonstrating the benefit of citizen engagement in bringing back environmentally challenged neighborhoods.
The top of my list was a lightning-speed Tree ID tour presented by Professor Don Leopold of SUNY ESF. As soon as he met the group outside the Gateway Center he immediately began to talk about the varieties of trees that surrounded us. White oak, bur oak, Norway maple with milky sap, native paw paw, and the list goes on. Leopold rose to the occasion, climbing a stone wall to point out an example of invasive European buckthorn.
Large rain drops punctuated the approach to the huge dawn redwood in Oakwood Cemetery growing along the border with SUNY ESF, but the 40 members of the tour continued as Leopold explained that this is one of the oldest dawn redwoods in North America, sent to ESF in the 1950s.
Leopold pointed out a number of specimen trees at the cemetery, from sugar maple to northern cedar to London plane and bur oak. He provided a good brisk walk and a huge variety of tree identifications over the course of the afternoon, ending with distinguishing between the American and European varieties of larch, noting his preference that the American variety be planted on the ESF campus.
I would recommend the ReLeaf conference to anyone interested in improving their understanding of trees and the care of our urban forests. —Mary Vanouse
Council VP Brian Skinner took these photos of the Onondaga Lake Ecosystem Restoration tour during the ReLeaf 2015 conference. The bus took ReLeafers on a field trip that included an initial stop at the Onondaga Lake Visitor’s Center near the NYS Fairgrounds for an overview of Honeywell’s remediation and restoration efforts at Onondaga Lake.
About 2.2 million cubic yards of material was removed from Onondaga Lake and pumped to a consolidation area at former industrial property off of Airport Road for drying and safe isolation long term. About 2.5 billion gallons of water was treated. Approximately 450 acres of the lake will be capped to provide a new habitat layer, prevent erosion, and isolate remaining contaminants. More than 1.1 million plants, trees, and shrubs are being planted and more than 50 acres of wetlands enhanced.
From there the bus took a short drive to the Geddes Brook/Nine Mile Creek restoration area. Restoration at the approximately 17-acre Geddes Brook wetlands complex and portions of Nine Mile Creek include many interesting design features for wetland and stream restoration. About 50,000 plantings were made in the area, 11,000 of which are trees. To date, more than 100 species of fish, mammals, and birds have been observed in the restored wetland areas.
The tour was led by Craig Milburn, Managing Partner at Brown & Sanford Consultants and Mark Arrigo, Parsons Habitat Expert.
Meeting the men and women who are restoring the American chestnut, exploring the Alvar plant community on the new green roof, connecting with the Onondaga Earth Corps … there were so many highlights for the 185 attendees of the 2015 ReLeaf Conference at SUNY ESF. A special shout-out to the Region 7 folks who worked hard to put on the best program and presenters:
Kristina Ferrare, Steve Harris
Fran Lawlor, Jessi Lyons
Chris Manchester, Doug Morrison
Greg Owens, Brian “the Brain” Skinner, Pat Tobin, and Kate Woodle
At the 2015 ReLeaf Conference at SUNY ESF, it was fitting that ESF grad David Moore should be elected our new president. You can learn more about David from his profile last year on the blog. Here is David’s acceptance speech.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve our state’s urban forestry council as president. It is my intention to uphold, and propel into the future, the values and efforts of those who came before me. Humbled by my peers and predecessors who share my mission and have fought hard to establish the principles and reputation of our young industry, I am grateful for your support.
You have taught me by example a pay-it-forward mentality that is rare in most industries. Early in my career I was nurtured by strangers who recognized that I shared a common mission with them. They took no issue with the fact that they would receive no material reward for helping me be successful in my urban forestry career. They helped me find the technical resources and guidance to do my job solely because we live on the same planet and are working towards benefiting the same environment. This ethic of selfless dedication is what draws me to our council and propels me through hard times in my everyday work.
How fortunate are we to have found each other as professionals and partners. In this life, there is no individual effort that can surpass the potential and actual accomplishments of a cooperative group. Imagine if the Lorax in the Dr. Seuss book could have teamed up with a team of other Lorax? How would the story have ended? That is the question we must ask ourselves as we consider the pursuits and collaborative potential of our urban forestry council.
We are at a pivotal point in history that makes our council’s work exceptionally relevant and necessary. Our state and nation are undergoing a swell in urban population growth–our partners at the U.S. Forest Service who have quantified current trends and projected future trends can verify this. Every town and city that has existing infrastructure is due for a swell over the next 30 years. Our state’s largest city, which accounts for 45% of our state’s population, is projected to grow by a million more people between 2007 and 2030.
The generation of foresters who came before me laid the groundwork in establishing urban forestry as a strategy for city planning and not just city beautification. Through tireless research and demonstrative efforts, they have validated tree planting, management, and maintenance as necessary measures for making town and city life functional and desirable.
Similarly to how networks of influential and dedicated conservationists, foresters, and policy makers helped develop public policy that protected the Adirondack Park, we now have the opportunity to provide advocacy for protecting the value of forests where the average New Yorker experiences them in everyday life–in the towns, villages, and cities where we live.
We have every right to feel optimistic about our progress and our potential. In New York City, the past ten years have provided us legislation that protects biodiversity in parkland and natural areas, that protects street trees at their full replacement value, and that mandates a street tree be planted every 25 feet along the frontage of any new real estate development. These laws represent a shift in cultural perception of the value of trees in our lives and a justification of our efforts. We aren’t just planting trees anymore, we are establishing green infrastructure by installing air filters, street cooling features, and storm water filters. The justifications for our efforts continue to be quantified in new and exciting ways as technology and research evolve with the times.
Knowing the importance and potential that progressive, technically informed tree planting and management will have on our state in the face of urbanization, can we afford to not help each other succeed? The benefit we bring each other through support, camaraderie, and networking is ten-fold the cost of the time it takes. Our strength is in our diversity of experience and in numbers. Our call to action is the need to establish livable, desirable, sustainable communities in the face of urbanization. It won’t take rocket science, but it will take tree science. It’s a technical field, but also a quite natural one.
With these words, I wish to unite us by our common interests and intentions of creating a better world for future generations through urban forestry. Together as a diverse group, seeing our differences as our strengths and our commonalities as our life blood, we are equipped to carry on our state’s tradition of environmental greatness through the 21st century.
As we gear up for our NY ReLeaf Conference this week, it’s fitting to learn the essential history of the 1990 Farm Bill, to which all who care about urban and community forestry are indebted. This entry was written by Andy Hillman with help from Mary Kramarchyk and Nancy Wolf.
This year we celebrate a milestone in urban and community forestry. It is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the 1990 Farm Bill. It is no exaggeration to say that in 1990 urban and community forestry entered a new era in the United States. The national commitment to urban forestry on the part of the federal government was a component of the 1990 Farm Bill that fundamentally changed the nation’s approach to managing urban and community forestry.
This seminal legislation started New York State down the path that has led to the existence of NY ReLeaf and the New York State Urban Forestry Council. In 1991, increased funding for urban forestry led to new rules from the USDA Forest Service for its urban forestry work. All 50 states, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, islands of the Pacific, and the District of Columbia were required to create an urban forestry program under the leadership of state foresters, to hire a volunteer coordinator who would coordinate the state’s program with local professionals and volunteers, and to establish an urban forestry council as an advisory group for the program.
The volunteer coordinator and the state council were expected to set up the statewide program in coordination with the state USFS agency. This cooperative plan would establish the capacity to promote volunteer activities related to planting, maintaining, or protecting urban forest resources and for broad-based educational projects. New York State created the program to its fullest extent and has become recognized as one of the leaders in urban forestry in the nation.
A national urban forestry research plan was also called for in the 1990 Farm Bill. The research into urban forests, human health, and environmental quality that is carried out by the USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station in Syracuse is a direct result of this mandate in the 1990 Farm Bill. Today, we benefit from Dr. David Nowak’s research involving environmental or ecosystem services from the urban forest thanks to this watershed legislation.
Furthermore, owing to this legislation, this annual ReLeaf Conference has generated activities performed by over 7,000 volunteers living in 767 communities in New York being served by urban forestry enthusiasts.The 2015 New York ReLeaf Conference, with the theme of Environmental Science and Urban Forestry, serves as evidence of success of what began in the 1990 Farm Bill twenty five years ago.
A number of NYSUFC members are also alums of SUNY ESF (College of Environmental Science and Forestry), including Kim Zhang and Council Treasurer Lori Brockelbank, our Council Secretary Steve Harris, and Executive Secretary Liana Gooding’s husband Mark. For those of you who are new to SUNY ESF, here’s the buzz. One standout stat: the average student: faculty ratio is 12:1.
ESF at a Glance
Founded in 1911, ESF is the nation’s oldest and most respected college dedicated solely to the study of the environment, developing renewable technologies and building a sustainable future.
- The ESF campus occupies 12 acres in Syracuse and 25,000 acres on its regional campuses throughout Central New York and the Adirondack Park.
- The ESF student body consists of approximately 1,650 undergraduate students and 600 graduate students.
- ESF alumni number more than 18,000 worldwide.
- ESF offers 24 undergraduate and 30 graduate degree programs to choose from, including bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral (Ph.D.) programs in the sciences, engineering, forestry and landscape architecture. Associate degree programs are offered at ESF’s Ranger School in the Adirondacks.
- The College’s long-standing partnership with Syracuse University provides ESF students with the opportunity to take classes at SU, use library and computing facilities, join student clubs and eat in SU dining halls.
- US News & World Report ranks ESF among the “Top 50 Public National Universities” and one of the top 50 “Great Schools at Great Prices.” Here’s an article they did about ESF.
- Forbes magazine ranks ESF the 3rd best college in the nation for women in science and engineering.
- ESF students contribute more than 70,000 hours of community service each year, and the College has been named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll.
- The College sponsors intercollegiate athletic teams in basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, indoor track and timber sports.
Can you tell us about your childhood influences that foreshadowed getting interested in urban forestry?
Kim Zhang: Growing up in the Bronx, I didn’t have many childhood experiences that involved nature. It wasn’t until high school that I accidentally joined the environmental club when I followed my newly met friend to the club meeting. I instantly fell in love with the club and the school garden, the “Enchanted Garden.” It really was enchanting, like I was stepping into another world. I was stepping out of the urban environment into a forest with a natural brook running through it, a pond with fish and frogs, and a colorful understory of plants and shrubs. Following my sophomore year, I participated in the Wave Hill Summer Forest Project internship that introduced me to urban natural areas and working to protect them. These two experiences started me on my landscape architecture and urban forestry path.
What has been your career trajectory?
KZ: I received my Bachelor of Landscape Architecture from SUNY ESF in 2010. Following my degree, I returned to New York City and started work at New York Restoration Project (NYRP), a non-profit environmental organization. I worked on the Million Trees Initiative, planting trees on private properties. I then transitioned into the Capital Department at NYRP, where I worked under two landscape designers to redesign community gardens that NYRP managed. I really enjoyed the work I did here but wanted to learn more about how urban planning and design can impact a city’s vitality. So after three years at NYRP, I decided it was time for me to return to SUNY ESF for my master’s degree in Environmental and Community Land Planning.
Can you tell us some about your current position?
KZ: When I moved back to Syracuse, I found an internship that turned into a full-time position, working on the Save the Rain tree planting program through Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) of Onondaga County. I recently returned as a program assistant working on the Natural Resource Team. In this role I collaborate with Onondaga County Soil and Water Conservation District and NYSDEC, focusing on Emerald Ash Borer and Hemlock Woolly Adelgid. In addition, I work with volunteer tree stewards, youth, community outreach, and tree planting. My favorite part of the job is community development; I enjoy working with youth, conducting outreach, and getting community residents excited about trees!
What are some of your future goals?
KZ: I plan to take the ISA Certified Arborist exam sometime within the next couple of years. I hope to finish my master’s degree with a concentration in urban planning and park planning sometime soon!
What are your interests in your free time?
KZ: I enjoy watching cooking shows and learning new recipes. From time to time, I bike and enjoy hiking with friends and pointing out trees to them. Within the past year, I gained an interest in terrarium building and make them as gifts for friends.
Looking for a template as you craft or revise your community’s urban forest master plan (UFMP)? Ithaca once again leads the way. The newly revised document includes a master plan, tree inventory data, and arboricultural guidelines.
To borrow from the Pittsburgh UFMP, “An Urban Forest Master Plan is a road map, providing detailed information, recommendations, and resources needed to effectively and proactively manage and grow a city’s tree canopy. More importantly it provides a shared vision for the future of the urban forest to inspire and engage stakeholders in the care and protection of trees.”
Ithaca Shade Tree Advisory Committee Chair Nina Bassuk says, “Ithaca’s newly revised UFMP has components that many municipalities might be interested in, including specs for soil, soil volume, and nursery stock. It also has our tree care guidelines for site selection, tree selection, tree protection during construction, tree removal, and even our solar panel policy.” There are meticulously rendered tree planting details for varied circumstances including planting with CU-Structural Soil.
Nina says, “I would also like to point folks to our Community Forestry website, where resources include several management plans and ordinances that might be of interest, and advice on creating master plans.”